No one likes to be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable we put ourselves at risk to be hurt and even destroyed. It feels much safer to put a mask on, build a wall around ourselves and securely bar the door after attaching a large sign which reads Danger! Do Not Enter! Man-Eating Lions, Tigers, Crocodiles And Other Dangerous Creatures!
We'd get rid of the door if we could but God placed it there and we can't get rid of it. The best we can do is try to secure it the best we can and hope nothing makes it in. The problem is God can see through masks, he's not the least bit afraid of man-eating lions, tigers, crocodiles and other dangerous creatures and he is very patient. He will knock on your door for as long as it takes. He could force his way in but he won't. That's not the way he does things.
In order to become a Follower of Christ, you eventually had to open the door and let God in. Sometimes the door is thrown wide open, other times it slowly opens. Sometimes it will open a bit, then start to shut. Then it opens a bit more and shuts a bit less until finally it is opened. Eventually, you had to have let God in.
You quickly discover that God does not come in by himself. He starts letting other people come in and all of the sudden he starts requiring you to go out. All of this means you have to become vulnerable.
When we think about being vulnerable, we think about being hurt. It is true. When a person allows themselves to become vulnerable they are opening themselves up to the possibilities of being wounded. No one likes pain. No one looks forward to having pain. We seek to avoid pain. Pain is the signal to stop doing whatever you're doing.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to be vulnerable. A lot of people do their best to make sure no one knows about it. They quietly take a day off from work to go to chemo every two or three weeks. They usually do it on a Wednesday or Thursday as it takes a few days for the effects to show up. They recover over the weekend and return to work trying to cover up how bad they really feel. They make sure they always have a wig on. They use make up to cover up the effects of chemo and even though it is very dangerous to do so, they glue on eyelashes. They quietly slip out for radiation during lunch and they never discuss cancer with anyone. I know of cases where husbands have never seen their wives without their wigs. These women even sleep in their wigs.
I want to quickly say, I am not criticizing these people in the least. I respect their desire for privacy. Everyone handles things in their own way and I am only sharing this to make a point.
Since I decided not to be private about it, I opened myself up to being vulnerable. I rarely wear a wig. I wear head coverings to protect my sensitive scalp from the sun right now and also because society is uncomfortable with actually seeing women with shaved heads or little hair. I shared my diagnosis with family, friends, co-workers and even Christianblog.com members. I've talked about it with strangers. I set up a carepage online and made the decision to allow anyone to view it. I felt God was calling me to be vulnerable and if I could help someone it would be worth it.
However, with that openess came a plethora of other things. I've been told about every cure in the book. None of these people have spent years studying and researching cancer but I have been subjected to their expert advice anyways whether I wanted it or not. I have not wanted it. I have an oncologist whom God provided in a rather unusual and amazing way. Suffice it to say that was good enough for me. I've been told things like "You know chemo doesn't work, don't you? You should use natural products." That's really not the type of thing to say to a person while they're in chemo. As a side note I'd like to add that the chemo drug which gave me the most trouble was a drug which is from the yew tree. It is also the one most likely to cause an allergic reaction (sometimes dangerous) in about 60% of the people taking it. Some people have delighted in telling me stories about people who die from cancer. The more gruesome the better.
Most of the time, I've taken this is stride but this past week it came to a head. I was tired of all of this and feeling the sense of loss and helplessness all cancer survivors feel as they near the end of treatment which has lasted the better part of a year or more. During this time of uncertainty a few comments got through and they really hurt pretty bad. The comments themselves may not have seemed so bad but those being placed on top of everything else were the triggers which drove everything else into me.
As I reeled from the wound, I seemed to hear a voice in my head mocking me. "You only have yourself to blame for this. You should have kept everything private. You wouldn't be hurting right now if you did so quit sharing. Get back behind the wall."
To tell you the truth, I considered it for a few minutes. It would be so much easier to retreat. Then I wouldn't have to hurt anymore, or would I? We might kid ourselves into believing there is no pain behind the wall or behind the mask but that's not true. Pain is the very thing which drives us there in the first place. We go there to lick our wounds but there is no healing behind this kind of wall. In order to receive healing, we have to come out from behind the wall and place our hand into the hand of the LORD God our healer!
A gentle voice reminded me of the man who had followed me around the Farmer's Market one Saturday morning. The woman he wanted to marry was being treated half a world away for breast cancer and he was so afraid. He started to cry. He just needed someone to talk to about it. Would my husband and I be willing to listen and talk to him? How would he have known I was a breast cancer survivor if I had not been willing to be vulnerable?
I thought about other instances which have occurred over the past year. I thought about the impact my being vulnerable had on my principal and other co-workers. They're asking questions and although I haven't been at school, other Christians were. My being vulnerable has made a difference in the lives of some of those people. I've received messages from total strangers telling me of the impact it has made on them as well.
Is it worth it? I thought about that for a moment. I love the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians. I have turned to it during times of trouble for many years. The last portion of it has been my mainstay over the past eight and a half months.
15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people,Yes, it is worth it. Dare to be vulnerable!
there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
17 For our present troubles are small and won't last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
18 So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
1 Corinthians 4:15-18
K thank you for sharing and for being vulnerable! I have felt honored being part of your treatment and hearing all that is going on with you. I just told my daughter who was bawling because her boyfriend left for college that with love there comes pain. I told her she could have closed him out and not decided to date him but all of the fun times they had wouldn't have happened. Then she would be griping about how God hadn't brought her anyone. If we don't let people in we will miss out on god's gifts of love and companionship. And when we do we will undoubtedly get hurt. But I agree with you. It is worth it!